By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — It’s one of the town’s historic gems and Derry’s first Town Hall, but some say it’s taking way too long to make the Upper Village Hall look good.
As The East Derry Village Improvement Society continues to restore the building, it’s still showing its age and wear.
Former town councilor Janet Fairbanks called the building in East Derry an “eyesore” and said the East Derry volunteer group is taking way too long to make the hall a viable, attractive building.
“They (EDVIS) said they were going to save the building,” Fairbanks said.
The building, built around 1875, is still undergoing major renovations, part of the ongoing work to restore the hall to its former glory.
The building was once home to town meetings, libraries, clubs, Grange meetings, social gatherings and fire department activities.
Through the years, the hall fell into disrepair. It was in danger of being demolished until members of the East Derry Village Improvement Society took ownership from the town in 2009.
The town sold the hall to the group for $1, but officials requested a detailed plan for what projects were planned and when work would be completed.
Fairbanks sat on the Town Council during those dealings with EDVIS and said there were certain timeframes for the group to complete specific jobs. Some of those jobs have not been done, she said.
“It doesn’t look any different than it did in 2009,” Fairbanks said.
She said EDVIS members should come before the town to give an update of where the work list stands now.
“We could have sold that building to someone else and made some money (for the town),” she said.
In the past several years, efforts have included many hours of volunteer work and local businesses contributing time and materials.
Many groups use the space, including Kids Coop Theatre, a winter farmers market, and other special events.
Councilor Tom Cardon represents that area of East Derry and said he would contact the volunteer group and find out the status of the hall.
“I will take some blame for this,” he said.
Councilor Brad Benson’s lumber company was one of several community businesses donating products and services to help restore the hall.
He said it may not look like it now, but there has been a lot of work done.
The exterior is set to be pressure washed and then painted soon, Benson added. The weather this summer offered some setbacks for exterior work to be completed.
“I know the folks have worked very hard,” he said.
Fire Chief George Klauber said the hall is safe.
“We’ve been in there over the last nine months, and it meets all code requirements,” he said. “It is perfectly safe to use.”
To learn more about Upper Village Hall restoration efforts, visit uppervillagehall.org.